MADRID -Cuban dissident Yunior Garcia said on Thursday he left the communist-ruled island for Spain after the authorities cut his phone lines and those of his close relatives, and threatened them with reprisals if they joined planned protests.
The dissident, 39, whose plan for a mass protest on Monday was declared illegal and blocked by local authorities, arrived in Madrid on Wednesday after securing a visa from the Spanish government.
Garcia, a playwright who at times fought back tears at a news conference in Madrid, said his departure from Cuba “would make a great movie” as he said he expected police to stop or threaten him at any moment.
The Cuban government let him leave as a way to silence him, he said, adding that he traveled to Spain to give a voice to those being surpressed.
“I couldn’t stay silent, that’s why I came to Spain,” he said.
Garcia said his relatives were told they would lose their jobs and could go to jail if they took part in protests.
The Cuban government, on state-run and social media in the weeks prior to Monday’s planned protest, has alleged Garcia was working covertly with the United States to overthrow the state. Garcia and the United States have denied those allegations.
Cuba’s state-run media on Thursday criticized Garcia’s decision to leave, saying he had left “by his own means” and that his departure had left Archipelago, a dissident group he founded, in limbo.
Garcia said in another interview late Wednesday his decision to leave had caused some strife among dissidents still on the island – many of who are still facing pressure from the government.
Garcia said the government was acting like “an abusive husband” towards its people, calling it “a dictatorship and brutal tyranny.”
There was no immediate comment fom the authorities on the latest accusations.
He also criticized the United States, saying the trade embargo imposed on the island is helping the current government. He said he hoped to have an opportunity to address the U.S. Congress about the situation in Cuba.
Garcia became a central figure in Cuba’s dissident movement following protests in July that drew thousands onto the streets to demonstrate against shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
They were the largest protests since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. He died in 2016.